According to several new studies published in the March issue of Neurology, obesity can accelerate Alzheimer’s disease, as well as a number of other brain maladies. While it has long been understood that obesity can be a factor in the onset of diabetes, heart disease and strokes, it now appears that various types of dementia can be added to the list.
If true, this obviously gives people an added impetus to step up their battles against middle-aged spread. According to Dr. Ronald C. Petersen, chairman of the Medical and Scientific Advisory Council of the Alzheimer’s Association and director of the Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center at the Mayo Clinic, “This is an important message. Development of cognitive decline need not be a passive process. We are not all just sitting here and aging, and sooner or later it’s going to hit us. In fact, there may be some modifiable lifestyle factors that may influence our risk of developing cognitive impairment and Alzheimer’s disease down the road.”
In one report, Dr. Kristine Yaffe, a professor at the University of California, San Francisco, and director of the Memory Disorders Clinic at the San Francisco Veterans Affairs Medical Center, noted that three separate elements, obesity, high blood pressure and a low level of HDL (i.e. “good” cholesterol) were each found to have increased the likelihood of cognitive impairment in older women by a factor of 23%.
The authors of the report concluded, “As the obesity and sedentary lifestyle epidemic escalates throughout the world, identification of the role of these modifiable behaviors in increasing risk for development of deleterious outcomes, such as cognitive impairment, is critical.”
Unfortunately, there is another study which complicate the picture a bit. According to a study by Annette L. Fitzpatrick, a research associate professor of epidemiology at the University of Washington, in Seattle, data indicates that there’s a tipping point at around age 65 after which people with a low body mass index seem to have a higher risk of getting cognitive disorders than their plumper counterparts do.
According to the report, “The greatest dementia risk was found in underweight individuals at older ages. These findings suggest the predictive ability of BMI [body-mass index] changes across time.”
In other words, to help maintain your cognitive integrity, you should fight your natural tendencies towards sloth and overeating during middle age, and then as your appetite declines during your sunset years, you should start loading carbs again to keep your weight up. As with most things in life, it seems as though a happy medium is the ideal.
Oscar Wilde once said, “Nothing succeeds like excess,” but the flamboyant Irish writer died at age 46, so apparently his strategy was flawed. Moderation would seem to be the key.